Bhopal gas case: SC allows court to consider stringent charges

The Supreme Court refused to alter its 1996 judgement diluting charges in the Bhopal gas disaster case but left it open to the Sessions Court there to consider restoring stringent charges against the accused.

Last Updated: May 11, 2011, 18:06 PM IST

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday
refused to alter its 1996 judgement diluting charges in the
Bhopal gas disaster case but left it open to the Sessions
Court there to consider restoring stringent charges against
the accused, who had got punishment under lighter provisions.

Holding that the 1996 judgement that diluted charges
against the accused was "not binding", the apex court
dismissed a curative petition filed by the CBI saying it was
based on a "wrong and fallacious plea" and filed after a lapse
of 14 years.

"In our view, on the basis of the material on record,
it is wrong to assume that the 1996 judgement is a fetter
against proper exercise of powers by a court of competent
jurisdiction under the relevant provisions of the Code", a
five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice S H
Kapadia said.
The court said the 1996 verdict was not "binding" on
the trial court which failed to appreciate the correct legal
provision for trying the accused under the stringent provision
in the tragedy that killed over 15,000 people and left maimed
several thousands due to the leakage of deadly methyl
isocyanate (MIC) gas in December, 1984.

In its nine-page judgement, which has come under
attack from campaigners for sterner punishment to the accused,
the bench said curative petitions of CBI and Madhya Pradesh
Government were not only based on the "wrong and fallacious"
plea but were filed after a lapse of 14 years without
satisfactory explanation.
"No satisfactory explanation is given to file such
curative petitions after about 14 years from 1996 judgement of
the Supreme Court," the bench, also comprising justices
Altamas Kabir, R V Raveendran, B Sudershan Reddy and Aftab
Alam said.

The June 7 verdict of the Chief Judicial Magistrate,
Bhopal, awarding two years` imprisonment to the accused
including the then Chairman of the Union Carbide India Keshub
Mahindra had sparked a nationwide outrage following which the
government decided to file a curative petition against the
lighter punishment for those responsible for the gas tragedy.

The apex court today said both CBI and the Madhya
Pradesh government had adopted a correct legal premise in
approaching the Sessions Court with the criminal revision
petition for restoration of stringent charge of culpable
homicide not amounting to murder under section 304 (part II)
of the IPC which attracts maximum punishment of
10 years jail term.

The bench noted that the 1996 judgement diluting the
charges to section 304 A for negligence was based on the
evidence presented before it at that relevant time and it was
wrong to assume that it was binding on the trial court when
additional facts and material were forthcoming.

PTI